Charity from the heart – Swim Across America


Junior Helen Rail stands with Grace Finerman ’15 after completing the event in 2014. – Courtesy of Helen Rail ’17

Convent of the Sacred Heart junior Helen Rail makes waves both in the Long Island Sound and in the fight against cancer through her participation in the organization Swim Across America (SAA). Helen’s team, “Team Heart,” will paddle its way through the Sound June 25 at the Greenwich – Stamford Open Water Swim in support of the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy.
Swim Across America works toward raising awareness and funds for cancer prevention and treatment. SAA is a nonprofit organization that Mr. Jeff Keith and Mr. Matt Vossler founded in 1987.
The organization has given over $60 million to research facilities that work towards preventing and treating patients with cancer. SAA’s research beneficiaries include dozens of national hospitals and research centers. The funds raised are central to the new and advanced technology, which work towards the treatment of all types of cancer, according to
Swimmers nationwide participate in one-day events in various locations. People from all over the country come together and swim either a half mile, one and a half miles, or three miles, according to

Junior Helen Rail stands with Grace Finerman '15 after completing the event in 2014.
Junior Helen Rail stands with Grace Finerman ’15 after completing the event in 2014. Courtesy of Helen Rail ’17

Helen became involved with Swim Across America when her uncle, Mr. Herbert Mulholland, was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2007. Mr. Mulholland began “Team Mulholland Welch” so that his family could become involved in supporting the cause. “Team Mulholland Welch” has raised over $50,000. 
“Swim Across America was a way for him to show support and stand behind finding a cure for cancer,” Helen said.
In 2008, Helen swam a half mile with her family. That same year her older sister, alumna Elizabeth Rail ’11, raised over $17,000. Since then, Helen and her family annually swim on or manage the team. 
In 2009, Mr. Mulholland’s cancer fatally spread  to his lungs. Around the same time, doctors diagnosed Helen’s aunt, Mrs. Kathy Welch, with breast cancer. In 2014, Helen decided to lead “Team Heart” in memory of her uncle and in support of her aunt. 
“As it is for many, cancer has deeply disturbed my family. I have seen my uncle, sister, and other members of my family take great initiative to battle this disease,” Helen said. “In turn, I have taken on a bigger role as captain of my own team. I am extremely passionate and continue to work to reach my fundraising goals.”
There are many ways to become involved in Swim Across America. Starting in the spring, Helen will begin recruiting swimmers for her team. She will also send out emails to family and friends encouraging them to donate money to support “Team Heart.” Helen will make announcements, keep track of donations, and set personal and team goals.
“Foremost, ‘Team Heart’ would love to have more members. I am always looking to expand the number of swimmers on the team,” Helen said.
If members of the community are interested in volunteering but are unable to swim, they can also become virtual swimmers. Virtual swimmers help fundraise for the team and organization. Volunteers are also needed to be in charge of t-shirts and work tables at this year’s event at Tod’s Point June 25. 
“I am looking forward to starting this year’s team and begin fundraising. Of course, donations play a huge role and is a great and easy way to get involved. I hope that the Sacred Heart community is able to participate and take part in this amazing event,” Helen said.
Students interested in volunteering with Team Heart or Swim Across America can contact Helen at [email protected] to learn more about joining the team.
-Juliette Guice, Co-Photo Editor and Co-Video Content Editor